“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In 2016, the American poet and performer Amir Sulaiman invited the Belgian funk band BRZZVLL to perform alongside him on ‘Takin’ it to the Streets’, a festival in Marquette Park, Chicago. It was there, in that same park, that Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendary march on civil rights took place in 1966.
Documentary filmmaker Sam Ostyn accompanied BRZZVLL during their travels and captured the journey of band leader Vincent Brijs and Amir Sulaiman as they discovered the social background of IMAN, the voluntary organisation that is the driving force behind ‘Takin’ it to the streets’.
This adventure resulted in a poetic documentary, which is immersed in a strong sense of commitment. It captures the beauty of the small things in day-to-day life. The belief in humanity and society, both here and in Chicago, is a focal point of the film, as well as the major role art has to play in that.
‘Takin’ it to the Streets’ is a biennial, intercultural festival that has been organised by IMAN Central for almost twenty years. Their 2016 edition centred around the catch-phrase ‘The journey to Justice Continues’, and constituted a celebration of the 50-year anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Marquette Park March.
IMAN is short for Inner-City Muslim Action Network. A diverse group of Muslims created this organisation in 1997 as a way of tackling the violence, poverty and decay in southern Chicago. Every three hours, someone is shot to death in that part of the city. People who live there have resorted to calling it Chiraq, because the violent acts committed in the city are being compared to those committed in a zone of war.
IMAN is trying to rebuild the community and put social change in motion in this challenging neighbourhood, where former president Obama first started out in politics and where he, to this day, still owns a house. Right now, the organisation provides free care, and aids ex-convicts in their search for housing and employment. IMAN also developed a youth project that focuses on leadership and social engagement.
Sam Ostyn is a director, filmmaker and producer who had been working for years as an electronic music producer before he founded Helical Films. This film production company specializes in documentary filmmaking.
In 2015, he shot the documentary ‘Truth or Consequences’. It is an enchanting, poetic and endearing portrait of a minuscule town in the New Mexico desert that changed its name for a radio show. The story centres around their 15 minutes of fame and the impact it has made 64 years on, but also offers a window into the intangible mystique and charm of everyday American life.
Mourad Bekkour is the founder of ‘Nuff Said, a delightful bazaar that has been filled to the brim with soul, funk, comedy and literature for ten seasons now. Host Johan Petit and the cosmic pack BRZZVLL have been on the bill since the very beginning. Each first Friday of the month ‘Nuff Said takes place in the foyer of Berchem’s cultural centre. Since 2015, the concept has expanded to venues in Genk, Gent and Turnhout.
“After a couple of months break, ‘Nuff Said resumes its streak of ‘can’t miss’ evenings in Antwerp. It showcases both national and international literature, spoken word, video, comedy, hip hop and funk. But it is also the only cultural event where people with a foreign background show up in equal numbers as those with an autochthonous background, on stage as well as in the crowd.”
De Standaard, 22nd of October 2010
Amir Sulaiman is an American poet, artist and activist, who first shared the stage with Belgian funk band BRZZVLL in 2010 during ‘Nuff Said, a monthly evening stacked with culture at the interface of music, literature and comedy. They liked their collaborative sound, so much so that they decided to work together. In 2016, they released their joint album ‘First Let’s Dance: A ‘Nuff Said Celebration’, which received raving reviews in the Belgian media. Humo, a leading magazine, wrote: “It’s hard to imagine anyone else releasing a cooler record than this before the end of the year. BRZZVLL sounds like a major city at its best: simply irresistible (****)”.
“It’s hard to imagine anyone else releasing a cooler record than this before the end of the year. BRZZVLL sounds like a major city at its best: simply irresistible.”
HUMO, 2nd of february 2016